DFLers in the Minnesota House unveiled their full education budget, putting the bulk of the new money they hope to raise into such programs as all-day Kindergarten, pre-school scholarships and increased funding for regular classroom education.
"We want to make sure that the 2013 session, as we've said before, is going to be known as an education session," said House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.
The House DFL bill includes:
-- Funding for free all-day, every-day kindergarten for all students and districts that choose to participate.
-- Funding for scholarships for lower-income parents so their children can attend pre-school.
-- An increase in the basic funding formula for K-12 schools of $315 million over the two-year biennium.
-- Balancing revenues between wealthy and poor districts.
-- A new student testing system so that helps students achieve education and career goals.
The House DFL set goals of completely closing the achievement gap, eliminating high school dropouts and attaining 100 percent career and college readiness -- by the year 2027. The goal is to create the "world's best workforce" by that date.
Marquart said that is the year that students who enter kindergarten in the next few years will be finishing high school.
"We wanted to make sure that every single dollar goes to efforts and strategies with a proven track record of increasing student performance and closing the achievement gap," Marquart said. Early learning and all-day kindergarten are key to that effort, he said.
"Let's invest early to prevent the achievement gap, rather than spend billions of dollars trying to close it later," he said.
Rep. Kelby Woodard, R-Belle Plaine, minority leader on the education finance committee, said he agrees with several of the initiatives, but the bill also creates "new layers of government bureaucracy, while thrusting even more unfunded mandates on our schools."